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Press Release 28th February 2023 Cheltenham

The 13-times champion Jump trainer Paul Nicholls has saddled 46 winners at The Cheltenham Festival.

Speaking about his team for this year’s meeting at his Manor House Farm Stables in Somerset at a media visit organised by The Jockey Club, he said: “It’s a nice team and I think we’ll probably have 15-16 runners during the week. We’ll have a few running in the handicaps, so it’s a nice team to go to war with. I’d say the last two years we were very quiet – I think two years ago I watched the Supreme in the pub!

“We’re getting a nice team of horses together and not just for Cheltenham but for the next few years, which is really nice. The likes of Solo and Rubaud who both won at the weekend at Kempton are both nice horses.

“The betting says Hermes Allen is my best chance if you look at that, but who knows.

“It’s incredibly hard to win races there but I think Bravemansgame has got as good a chance as anything going there.”

Please find Nicholls’ comments below on his leading contenders, a race-by-race basis.


Champion Day – Tuesday 14th March


1.30pm Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1)


“It would be nice if we could start with a winner on the first day as we can relax after that! He looks fantastic and he’s won three from three this year for the Noel Fehily Racing Club and he’s surprised us a bit to be honest with you. He won his bumper at Wincanton last March and we thought he was a nice horse who’d go on and win races, but we never thought we’d be going for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham with him.

“We started off at Chepstow where he won very impressively and then stepped him up in grade to Listed level at Haydock, which he won. He’s since won the Tolworth at Sandown after Christmas and that was in spite of the ground. It was heavy that day and I don’t think he enjoyed it that much, but he had enough ability to gallop round and win nicely.

“The ground will be much better at Cheltenham for him which will suit and he reminds me of two of my other Supreme winners, Al Ferof and Noland. Both of those horses were never going to make up into Champion Hurdlers, they were staying chasers and he’s very much the same as then. Those horses that stay can actually run very well in the Supreme, they’re outpaced and then they turn into the straight and gallop up the hill.

“I see Tahmuras in the same mould as those two horses. He’ll be a chaser next season but he’s got a lot of ability. He’s won three from three and that puts him right into the mix in a very open race.”


2.50pm Ultima Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap)

Broken Halo, Threeunderthrufive

Threeunderthrufive: “He’s probably got a nice chance in the Ultima, which his owner Max McNeill sponsors. He won four novice chases last year and was in a mark of the 150s which I thought was too high. After a couple of runs this year he’s only dropped down to a mark of 150 and he wants to be a little bit lower yet – he got beat 18 lengths in the Classic Chase at Warwick and got dropped 1lb.

“I think he’s still got it all to do at the weights but having said that he won at Cheltenham last year (at the 2021 November Meeting) and he likes nice ground, so he’s definitely not without a chance. Max would love to win his own money so it would be nice if he would run well!

“He’s in the National after that but I think it’s a year too soon for him to go for that. We’ll see what happens at Cheltenham, but he’s more likely to run in the Scottish Grand National or the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown. It might be Ayr for him I’d say and then maybe next year I’d look at Aintree. Going three miles in the Ultima and four and a quarter miles at Aintree and two totally different things, so I think it’ll be another year for him on that front personally.”


4.50pm Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Premier Handicap)


“It’s been a bit of a rush to get him ready, but he won at Taunton first time and then he went up to Musselburgh and won a Listed race on his second start. He got a mark of 124 which I thought was quite a nice mark and looking at some of the juveniles in Ireland you wouldn’t be going to the Triumph. I ran him at Haydock last week as to run in the Boodles (Fred Winter) you have to have a third run under your belt to be eligible - even if you have a mark.

“It was a bit too soon for him and he didn’t run too great as he was sixth, but my hand was forced a little bit as I had to have that third run. We’ve got a couple of weeks now to decide whether we go and if we don’t go we’ll go to the juvenile novice handicap at Ascot a couple of weeks after that. The qualification side of things makes it a bit tricky. I think Milton (Harris) ran Postmark on Saturday (in the Grade Two Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton) for the same reason. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a mark, you have to run three times over hurdles to qualify for that race so a few of us have been rushing to get our horses in.

“If I didn’t go to Haydock I don’t know what else I’d have done, but we’ve got him qualified for the Boodles. I just need to see if I can get him back to his best form now, but he’s a little bit like Irish Hill, who last year was an okay four year old but this season has just gone onwards and upwards and this lad ought to do the same next season once he’s had a summer. It’s all been a little bit rushed for him so we’ll see.”


Festival Wednesday – Wednesday 15th March


1.30pm Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

Hermes Allen, Tahmuras

Hermes Allen: “We didn’t run him last spring because he was quite backward and he surprised me when he won first time out at Stratford. He went to Cheltenham and then Newbury and won very nicely both times after that, so he’s been great. It was very soft at Newbury last time which I didn’t think he’d want but he was about the only who went through it. I think every horse in behind him has won since so it’s turned out to be a very good race.

“He’s obviously got a huge amount of ability and I’m excited about him going to Cheltenham, but I’m also excited about his future and going chasing next year.

“He’ll be a lovely chaser but he’s working nicely now and he's in good shape. He’s in the Albert Bartlett as well but I haven’t even looked at the race to be honest as I’ve always thought that two and a half miles is ideal for him. It’s a very good race and the Irish have got some good horses in there, but he’s got a good chance. He jumps and he’ll be ridden forward and he’s a lovely horse. We’re not having too many runs, we thought we didn’t need to run him again after the Challow because we can always go to Aintree after.

“He’s probably got the best chance of our horses if you go solely off the market because he’s favourite but I don’t look at the betting. There are so many good horses around and some will improve and some will underperform so it’s a very competitive race. He’s done really well so far so hopefully he’ll go very close. It’s not the be all and end all as he’ll be a lovely chaser next year but he’s in a lovely place at the moment.”


2.10pm Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)

McFabulous, Stage Star

Stage Star: “He’s been a grand horse this year. He was a Grade One winner over hurdles in the Challow last year at Newbury and he’s been a great servant novice chasing this year. He won first time out at Warwick when jumping great and then he was second at Newbury in a Grade Two in November when he didn’t go particularly well that day – he hung and didn’t jump. I just think he was one of the number of horses who found the ground very fast that day. He went to Plumpton after Christmas and made all and won again and then on Trials Day he won the novices’ handicap there really nicely off top weight.

“He’s in the Turners and the Brown Advisory and we’ll just see what the ground does. He’s going to run in one of the other and if the ground was really good I wouldn’t be afraid to go for the Brown as I think he’ll get three miles as he was staying on well last time. If it’s on the slower side we’ll go for the Turners so we’ll make a plan nearer the time. He’s a progressive horse and he did really nicely at Cheltenham, but they’re good races. With another summer on his back he’ll be a nice horse to go chasing with over here.”


2.50pm Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Premier Handicap)

Irish Hill, Outlaw Peter, Red Risk

Irish Hill: “He won at Ascot recently and he’s been really progressive for us. He’s got an entry in the Martin Pipe and the Coral. He’ll definitely get in the former whereas it will be tight for the Coral – I think on last year’s weights he’d be just on the limit of getting in. If he can get in the Coral he’ll go there as Harry (Cobden) will ride him, otherwise he’ll go for the Martin Pipe.

“I think he won with a little bit in hand at Ascot the other day, he travelled well and jumped well and he’s done really well. He was ok last year but those four year old just take a little bit of time sometimes and he’s taken a huge step forward this year and he’s made up into a really nice horse now. I’m desperate to see him run really well - when he won at Taunton and Fakenham I thought he might need a flat track but he put that to bed the other day at Ascot.”


3.30pm Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)


“He’s been a grand horse. He’s a three-time Grade One winner at Sandown and he’s won two Haldon Gold Cups for us. He ran at Newbury (in the Game Spirit Chase) and was beaten as a red-hot favourite so he’s gone from about 12-1 to 33-1 for the Champion Chase, but two years ago he did the exact same thing there in the same race. The ground was far too firm to be honest and he’s actually going up to Lambourn tomorrow to do a piece of work with Thyme White.

“When we ran in the Haldon Gold Cup we had him really ready to win and the other day he wasn’t. It was a prep for Cheltenham and it doesn’t work doing it with him like that. He’ll come on a tonne for that run and it’ll be no surprise to me if he runs really well in the Queen Mother and finishes third or fourth. I’m not saying he’ll win the Champion Chase but he’s very capable of running a tidy race. Cheltenham suits him better than Newbury and he’ll give a good account of himself before he goes to the Celebration Chase at Sandown on the last day of the season – on a track which for whatever reason he absolutely loves.

“I think he just needs another piece of work and he surprised me with how short he was the other day. We ran him in the Tingle Creek after the Haldon and given him an easy time and I just think he needs another piece of work.”


4.50pm Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap)

Thyme White

“He is always brilliant fresh and lets you down second time! He ran very well at Ascot in October, he travelled beautifully in a valuable handicap and absolutely bolted in. He was then favourite for the £100,000 race at Ascot three weeks later and didn’t go at all. He’s obviously at his best fresh so I thought we’d have one go at the Grand Annual with him fresh. He hasn’t run since so we’ll give him an away day tomorrow at Lambourn with Greneteen and then he’ll go for Cheltenham.

“He’s really good fresh and why that is I couldn’t tell you but he looks great and hopefully he’s in there with a chance. He’s one of a few that we’ve got in handicaps that’s got a chance.

“He’s a few pounds higher than he was last year but he goes there with a chance. You need everything to drop right for you in those races but we’ve won it enough times with this type of horse and we’re hoping that the fact that we’ve kept him fresh will work out. He’s probably one next year who will go first time out in the Haldon Gold Cup or something.”


5.30pm Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade One)

Captain Teague

“He’s going to have an entry in the Champion Bumper. We don’t have many entries in that race, one of our most recent ones was probably Al Ferof who was second to Cue Card!

“He won a point to point in Ireland last year very impressively and we took him to Plumpton just before Christmas in a bumper and he hosed in. I’m not saying he’s going to win the Champion Bumper or anything like that, but we’re running out of options to give him a run this season before he goes hurdling next year.

“You know the ground is going to be safe at Cheltenham and on that early part of the week it’ll probably be good to soft. We’ve got to go somewhere with him so we’ll let him take his chance in the Bumper.

“It’s a chance for him to have a day out and get some more experience and if we finish fifth or six with him we’ll be absolutely delighted. He’ll be a lovely horse to go novice hurdling next year, he’ll be one of our better horses hopefully. He’s unbeaten and a lovely youngster, we probably don’t wind them up quite as much for bumpers as the Irish, if anything wins a bumper out there they all want to run in the Champion Bumper whereas it’s not such a big thing for us. He’s a tough horse who’s only had a couple of runs so it won’t do him any harm having a go and he could run a nice race.

“If he was an Irish horse, he’d probably be 10-1 and because he's an English horse he’ll probably be 25-1! That’s just the way it is, but he’s a lovely horse and one for the future.”



St Patrick’s Thursday – Thursday 16th March


1.30pm Turners Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)

McFabulous, Stage Star


2.10pm Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (Premier Handicap)

Jet Of Magic, Sabrina


2.50pm Ryanair Chase (Grade 1)

Hitman, Pic D’Orhy, Saint Calvados

Hitman: “He runs in the Ryanair and was second in the Denman Chase the other day, when he quite blatantly didn’t get three miles. Middle distances are ideal for him and he started off his season really well, he carried top weight in the Old Roan (at Aintree) and got beaten a head (by Riders Onthe Storm) before winning well at Haydock.

“He went to Kempton and didn’t jump particularly well in the King George and then he ran much better in the Denman at Newbury in a really fast run race. He’s the type of horse who could run really well in a Ryanair and he’s always there or thereabouts. He hasn’t won that often but he’s always running in these good races and jumps really tidy, so he’s a horse who could easily run into a place. The trip suits him nicely and they always say the Ryanair cuts up but it will still take a lot of winning.

“If Shishkin runs like he did at Ascot the other day, he’ll win. I thought he was unbelievable as I thought that Pic D'Orhy would win the Ascot Chase. Shishkin was just brilliant and Pic D'Orhy probably ran a career best to finish second – so if Shishkin is in the same form everyone else will be going for places. Hitman is one who will jump well and travel well and he’ll be right in the mix.”


4.10pm Magners Plate Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap)

Flic Ou Voyou, Hitman, Il Ridoto, Stage Star

Il Ridoto: “He won the handicap on Trials Day really nicely when first-time cheekpieces did the trick. I just thought he’d been keeping a bit to himself and running a bit green and he might well have won one of those nicer handicaps earlier in the season at Cheltenham if he hadn’t have missed the last on both days.

“We rode him nice a positive under those cheekpieces and he jumped brilliant and stayed on strongly. He went up 8lbs for that but I still think he’s got room to go well off that mark and I think next year he’s a horse who could end up running in a Ryanair Chase.

“He runs in the Plate and he’s got a leading chance. He loves Cheltenham and he’s a young horse who’s improving, so there’s plenty to come from him over the next few years. He’s qualified for the Topham Chase so he could go for that – we’ll see what happens.”



Gold Cup Day – Friday 17th March


1.30pm JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1)

Afadil, Rare Middleton


2.10pm McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle (Premier Handicap)

Hacker Des Places, Iceo, Silent Revolution, Timeforatune, Toothless


2.50pm Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

Hermes Allen, Stay Away Fay

Stay Away Fay: “He’s not that far behind Hermes Allen, he’s just had one run less. He won his point to point in Ireland and won nicely at Newbury in November.

“Lorcan (Williams) would probably say that it wasn’t his best ever ride when he was second on the last day at Doncaster. He got into trouble at the start and all the way up the straight and he still stayed on and finished second in that Grade Two race – he’s got a mark of 136 and who knows where he might end up.

“He runs in the Albert Bartlett and I think there’s a lot to come from this horse. He stays and he gallops and with a bit more luck in running he’d have probably won last time – it was just one that got away. He’s a nice horse though and just lacks a little bit of experience.  I’d have liked to have given him one more run, but it just hasn’t worked out that way.

“The horse he beat in his point to point (Monty's Star) beat the favourite for the Albert Bartlett at Clonmel earlier this month (Hiddenvalley Lake). He’s 25-1 and I think he’s one of the best priced outsiders we’ve got and I think there’s a lot to come from him, he’ll make a lovely chaser next year.”


3.30pm Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1)


“He’s done nothing wrong this year. He won the Charlie Hall and the King George and I just don’t think he was right last spring, like a lot of ours. We re- cauterised his palate in the summer, and he’s had some time off. I didn’t make the same mistake of running him in between Kempton and Cheltenham as he’s brilliant fresh and brilliant very fit.

“He’s twice the horse now as a model and everything about him that he was last year. He was very light and behind 12 months ago and it just didn’t go right for him. We took him out of Cheltenham, and he went to Aintree and even though he didn’t run at Cheltenham he was like he’d had a run and he was just over the top by the time he went to Aintree.

“We learned a few things about him after last year and you never stop learning how to train one. I think we’ve got it right with him now and he looks great. One thing he did at Kempton was he stayed on really strongly, he didn’t get the best passage at all in that race really until turning into the straight and then he’s stayed on well. Horses who win the King George win Gold Cups and I think he’s got one of our best chances of the week. It’s a good race and it’ll be hard to win but any Gold Cup is hard to win.

“I think he probably is (my best chance since Kauto Star) and it’s a plan we’ve always had for him. I read somewhere that he doesn’t act on the track but he’s had one run there and was third in the Ballymore when beaten by a horse who on the day was an airplane and now can’t raise a gallop! He ran very well that day and has won on all kinds of different tracks, but he’s the finished article now. I can assure you when he was six years old he wasn’t half the horse he is now, he’s needed all the time in the world to mature and get big like he is now.

“In the Gold Cup you’ll turn in and there will be five or six in the mix and the best horse on the day will win, so you just don’t know until then. I don’t know how he’ll get up that hill and nobody knows but it was the same with Kauto Star, we didn’t know whether he was going to get three and a quarter miles as he was only running at Kempton but he did. We’ll see, but I think he’s in great shape and he’s in a great place so I think he’s got a lovely chance.

“It would be lovely to win the Gold Cup again, it’s what we do it for. He won a good King George this year and keeps going well and if I’d have shown you a picture of him last year compared to now, it’s no comparison. He’s a bigger and stronger horse this year and in a much better place, so we’re very hopeful.

“Galopin Des Champs is probably the one we’ve all got to beat but it’s the Gold Cup and you’ve got to beat everyone in that race. There are some excellent horses in this year’s race, but he’s in the mix. I think he’s the best staying chaser in England and he’s proven that and now he’s got to go and run the biggest race of his life.

“I think he might well be (underestimated in the market). He doesn’t know what price he is and it’s irrelevant what price he goes off, he’s done everything right so far and we’re really happy with him. 

“What he did do at Kempton, like he did in the Charlie Hall, was really stay on strongly and he’s got the right profile for this race. If he won the Gold Cup you’d be saying that all the form was there.

“He doesn’t mind soft ground and he doesn’t mind what it is, he’s a versatile horse. Usually at Cheltenham you have good to soft perfect ground and that will be ideal for him.

“Having a nice run in the Gold Cup is the most important thing to me and it’s what we do it for. Our nice novices will be great for the future but to have a nice chance in the Gold Cup is the exciting thing for me and it’s what I’m really looking forward to. It’s exciting to have a really good horse for it.”


4.10pm St James’s Place Festival Hunters’ Chase

Bob And Co, Cat Tiger, Secret Investor

Secret Investor: “He runs in the St James Palace and he will be ridden by Natalie (Parker) who won on him at Bangor. She couldn’t ride him the other day when he went to Kelso as she got concussed in a point to point so Charlie Sprake took over.

“He’s had his two runs – you have to be first or second in two runs to qualify for Cheltenham – and a couple of years before that he beat Clan Des Obeaux in the Denman Chase at Newbury. Sadly he broke down that day and had 18 months off and when he came back he was never going to win off a mark of 156. He went to Chepstow and ran in a handicap (the Welsh National trial) and was well beaten and we got dropped nothing.

“It was impossible to win off that kind of mark with him but his owner Clive Hitchings has always been a big fan of hunter chases and point to point races. He said to see if we could get him qualified and to give him a couple of years in this sphere and that’s what we’re doing. It gives him a new career and he’s won two hunter chases so far and both times he’s been dropped 7lbs! He’s at a more realistic mark now, he’s done all of his winning and running in top-class races but this gives him a second life. He’s qualified for that and hopefully he’ll give Nat a great ride. He’s been a good horse and hopefully he’ll be right in the mix.

“We had Pacha Du Polder win this race before and he’s not unlike Pacha as he’s a nice horse who’s dropped down the weights. He’s won two from two and looked really classy so he’s got to be in the mix.”


5.30pm Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

Hacker Des Places, Iceo, Irish Hill, Silent Revolution, Sir Psycho, Timeforatune, Toothless


Paul Nicholls’ 46 winners at The Festival


1999 Flagship Uberalles - Sporting Life Arkle Novices’ Chase


1999 Call Equiname - Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

1999 See More Business Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup


2003 Azertyuiop - Sporting Life Arkle Novices’ Chase


2004 Azertyuiop - Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

2004 Sporazene - McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle

2004 Earthmover - St James’s Place Festival Hunters’ Chase

2004 St Pirran - Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase


2005 Thisthatandtother - Ryanair Chase

2005 Sleeping Night - St James’s Place Festival Hunters’ Chase


2006 Noland - Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

2006 Star De Mohaison - Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase

2006 Desert Quest - McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle


2007 Denman - Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase

2007 Taranis - Ryanair Chase

2007 Kauto Star - Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup

2007 Andreas - Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase


2008 Master Minded - Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

2008 Celestial Halo - JCB Triumph Hurdle

2008 Denman - Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup


2009 Chapoturgeon - Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase

2009 Master Minded - Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

2009 Big Buck’s - Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle

2009 American Trilogy - McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle

2009 Kauto Star - Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup


2010 Sanctuaire - Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

2010 Big Buck’s - Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle


2011 Al Ferof - Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

2011 Big Buck’s - Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle

2011 Zarkandar - JCB Triumph Hurdle


2012 Rock On Ruby - Unibet Champion Hurd

2012 Big Buck’s - Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle


2013 Salubrious - Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle


2014 Lac Fontana - McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle


2015 Aux Ptits Soins - Coral Cup

2015 Dodging Bullets - Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

2015 Qualando - Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle


2016 Diego Du Charmil - Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

2016 Ibis Du Rheu - Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle

2016 Solar Impulse - Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Hurdle


2017 Pacha Du Polder - St James’s Place Festival Hunters’ Chase


2018 Pacha Du Polder - St James’s Place Festival Hunters’ Chase

2018 Le Prezien - Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase


2019 Topofthegame - Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase


2019 Frodon - Ryanair Chase


2020 Politologue - Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase


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